Monthly Archives: April 2016

Living in concert with the Holy Breath

So what it all comes down to, I think, is learning to live “in concert with” the Force.

Well, not the Force.  The Spirit.  It’s just that in our world, “the Force” makes more sense!

But the Spirit isn’t the Force.   The Force is impersonal; the Spirit is the living God.

And we’re just crazy enough to believe Jesus, that he has come to live within us, by his Spirit.  Or, if you like, by his “Breath” – in the Greek and in the Hebrew, the same word suffices for both.

When we come to trust Jesus enough to say we are his, he moves in, by his Holy Spirit, to live his life in us if we will let him.

And this is what “discipleship” is – learning to live alongside his life in us, in step with him, in concert with him.

I’ve read a lot of books about discipleship, about the nuts and bolts of setting up discipleship programs and discipleship team, but I feel like I just figured out what it is!

All the programs are about, are ways for us to pay attention, to lift our concentration from the pushes and pulls of our human self trying to survive in this world (aka, “the flesh), in order to hear from God about what is important today.

That’s what “spiritual disciplines” are – they are ways of quieting the mind and settling the appetites and ignoring the wants and fears and angers, long enough to encounter the still, small voice of God.

God very much cares about what we in our humanness want and need.  It’s just that if our objective is just to answer the calls of our “flesh,” we won’t live in the power of who we really are, and we likely won’t even make our “survival selves” happy.

Humans are made to seek meaning – but not just meaning.  We were made to live in companionship with God.  There’s that talk in the Bible about us being made in God’s image.  I don’t think that means we look like God; I think it means we have some of God’s characteristics, like love of beauty and a need to create and an urge to solve problems.  It pleases God when we live in the fullness of those things, but he doesn’t want to just watch.  He wants us in relationship with him, day by day.

And in that relationship (made available to us in Jesus), when the Spirit of God has come to live in us, we might start to see each day differently.  If we are paying attention.

Suddenly interruptions might not be annoyances, they might be holy appointments.  The person we share a bus seat with might get a prayer, even if they don’t know it.  And the answer to a question we are pondering may come out of nowhere (well, it will just seem that way).

And the things that have driven us before – anger, shame, anxiety – these things start to get smaller because there are bigger things to be done.  It is no longer so satisfying to be outraged every day, or to seek to control the bad things that might happen by pre-worrying about them.  These are practices, too – but not spiritual ones.

Discipleship, then, is just helping one another along the way to adopt the kinds of practices that will help us  hear  God’s voice by his Spirit, encouragement to understand and believe what God has said, maybe a kick in the pants when we are indulging the “survival self” more than the Spirit in our lives.  Discipleship involves the telling of stories, of success and falling down, so we can thank God together for the promise that he will never leave us alone.

I am learning.  Interested in what others think….

A little reflection of glory

Everybody’s got an agenda.

There are so many causes and efforts I am in favor of!  So of course my mail, email, Facebook and Twitter feeds include so many calls to action, it’s exhausting – and I wind up ignoring them most days.

But shouldn’t I be engaged in all these efforts, as a way to build the kingdom of God in our time?

That raises an interesting question.  Who does “build the kingdom of God”?

The Bible tells us that God is going to establish it.  We believe that Jesus initiated it in his resurrection.  But nowhere does it tell us to BUILD it.

The scriptures call us “citizens” of the kingdom of God, by virtue of our new identity “in Christ” – that is, that when we have put our trust in Jesus, we are joined to him.  His death becomes our death, his resurrection becomes our resurrection.  We, too, are children of God, and God is our Father.  And we are “seated in the heavenlies” with him, Paul writes in Ephesians.

So our task here is illumined by our connection to him, who sits at the right hand of God!  We become able to see his glory by the presence of the Holy Spirit within.  We live with a foot in each existence:  one in this world, and one in the next!

We don’t have to build the kingdom – it’s coming.  God has built it.

Our job is really, to reflect it.

That’s what Jesus is describing in the Sermon on the Mount.  Blessed are the peacemakers – not, if you are a peacemaker, you will be blessed.  Go be a peacemaker.  Instead, in the real kingdom of God, peacemakers are already blessed, as are the poor in spirit and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, etc.

In the kingdom of God, love is the order of the day; so is justice.  No one has to tell anyone to love their neighbor or extend mercy or do justice.  It just is that way.

And as those who reflect his glory in the midst of this world, our call is to live with that understanding – in the “real world,” defined as that which exists eternally in the presence of God, there is no hatred or warfare.  There is no racism.  There is no murder or rape.  There is no need and no poverty.  There is no threat and there is no fear. Our hearts know this, and we are called to live like it, right here in the midst of our neighborhoods and our jobs and our daily lives.

Not that we pretend those things exist here.  Rather, we ferret out of our lives the hatred, fear, anger, prejudice that lives there, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  The kingdom comes and lives in us!

And then we are predisposed to loving others in a way that is truly a sign of another world to come.  After God has done this work in us, we won’t have to pretend to be loving or holy so as to give God some good PR.  We WILL BE loving and holy, as the Spirit has more room in us to display Jesus’ glory!

Once again, it’s the little things done in every Jesus-follower’s life that make big headlines in the presence of God but probably weren’t noticed by many in this life.  Nothing more urgent than the light within first.

Now, loving my neighbor may mean getting involved in some causes.  I’m all for that.  But Lord, do in me the prior work, so I won’t feel proud of my “sacrifices” or fool myself into thinking I’m building your kingdom.

Instead let me see the people you have put in my path, and help me to discern what I in my earthly self have stored away in my heart that violates your kingdom.   Remove from me the powerful impulses that oppose your kingdom and its ways.  Then let me love, whoever it is you send me, with the love of Jesus.

May it be so.